A Hundred Flowers

‘Under Syrian Skies!’ by Suhair Sibai

What are you waiting for?
For me to admit that, like you, all I ever wanted was an open-concept floor-plan and a walk-in closet just for shoes I only wear once or twice a year? For a selection of grocers within a five-mile radius from which to choose where to get my daily bread and a comprehensive health plan with a highly-rated HMO? For me to smear coquettish makeup on my face and slap on a cursory smile of tied-together hyphens so when you look at me it’ll be like looking at yourself and you won’t have to be so scared? For a hundred flowers to bloom so you can pluck them for a day’s centerpiece and throw them out the next? For me to fall back into a pillowy existence of first-world security and not drown in the suffering of a screaming planet? Read More


Three Years

Photography by Amaya Engleking

Since last summer I cannot look a person in the eye. You and I need to quit the pretense that we’re free from guilt. And when I die by gunfire or fire, humiliate me no further with a funeral and feigned sadness. There is only one sadness. Listen to Yo-yo Ma in the rain and drop to your knees and confess.

With one more calendar of blogging set free on the quaking stream, rippling on in dichromatic shadow, I must revisit this past year and assure that I’m not just writing what is true, but what is helpful, a trusted refrain. While organizing the bookshelf a few nights ago, I flipped through a journal from the Asia days and found how uninhibited I was in print, beholden to not another soul. I didn’t have a phone or camera for those five months and only got a cheap flip phone when I got back to Chengdu in the spring in order to continue freelancing. How many portraits were drawn with the only teachers being the lines themselves?

“Oh sweet nuthin’ She ain’t got nuthin’ at all” Drawing by Amaya Engleking

‘Trinity Freak’ Drawing by Amaya Engleking

After Ezra Pound
Be hoboable
Curiosity killed the Catholic
Consumers suck Read More

Lay Low

Photography by Peter Lindbergh

“Lay low awhile.”
Din of grungy mahjong slot machines, smoke thick as port-town smog, slurps of Chongqing hot noodle soup
Watery lager, grease stains, and spit riddled the cement floor,
For the right price she could decipher them too —
“Too many eyes on you and this,”
Boss held up her Read More



‘Love in Nepal’ mixed media drawing by Amaya Engleking

There’s little that’s less inspiring than school, the place with all the solutions.

Still, street henna artist Sweety asked for nothing more than some milk for baby Pari and to send her four kids to school.

I couldn’t reply for weeks, at odds with institutionalized education and the corresponding state of the world,

its bony-limbed beggars

its middle caste class action mobsters

bursting the belt buckle.

Water and well-anointed oil do not mix;

they never share a meal.  Read More

New Refrain

Painting by Megan Triantafillou

Mass with mastitis
mother by marriage says we’ll go to see Mother Mary but I know you know better
drinking in the sacrament of breath…

…Symposium of spirits concentrate there,
a kiss to sustain the learning world when by day and night
it hardens,
angels martyred
only to meet the gathered light and song and with new refrain go right back IN
TO bodies as
shining epistles altering helices and species Read More

Embracing Blessed Pregnancy (Shape Poem)

I am
in bloom.
Full of blood,
bubbling, full of life.
Face aglow, I am awed
by the blood vessels
flowing into womb,
thickened veins and
umbilical pulse.  I can
feel their swollen contours
as they inflect upwards beneath
the skin.  Bulbous breasts plump with
sweet amber, ~~ dripping like blackstrap
molasses. ~~ Soon the ambrosia will pour
forth as the new baby feeds,  feeding the
flowering plants, tuberose and jasmine,
clematis and columbine,  blossoming
blackberry brambles; ~~ this milky
blancmange enriching the fertile
soil of spring. ~~ Efflorescence Read More

Salt (in the Wound)

Painting by Elena Katsyura

What did you learn in school today, the bored mom asked her teenage son at the dinner table
not looking up from her phone
not noticing quiet tears falling on shuffled peas.

How to multiply polynomials, conjugate in the subjunctive, how violently sudden the last gasp of air comes to the bullet-holed classmate, how it feels to be expendable, grieving, and let down all at once. That was never on the syllabus or the glossy website. Forget being fruitful and multiplying when we don’t even know what X is. Forget wishing and hoping when we shed (others’) blood for the correct version of hypothetical. We are willing to (let someone else) die for what we are (not) willing to sacrifice. Don’t ever tell me to be bold again if this is what it looks like.  Read More


Photography by Charlotte Colbert

All is white these days, the humidifier noise through the night and late January skies, but I’d give my life not to remain a blank slate mirror anymore. Smooth, slippery cold marble surface, not even the Kronos Quartet playing Philip Glass to the much prayed-for snowfall, not even the kids’ laughs or cries, not even my husband saying poetry doesn’t matter can penetrate, or stick, or stain. Albedo one hundred percent. Read More

Sliding Scale

Mentality shaky like an ancient mountain on a fault line slipping into the sea and the mountains don’t even speak to me anymore long neglectful of the dust that comprises their mass even when the shadows spill glorious on their umber cliff sides in low winter sun i am laid numb by the trisomy 13 and too premature and still-
births of strangers
sisters Read More